As the weather changes and the temperatures get colder, the focus for workplace safety may need to shift. A safe workplace is important to employers for many reasons. It will reduce workers’ compensation injuries, which should then result in lower claims cost. As the temperatures drop outside, the focus needs to change in order to maintain a safe work environment.
The following are some key steps for winter safety in the workplace:
- Remove hazards such as water on floors, and snow on sidewalks
- Warm up before shoveling and/or deliveries
- Keep walkways, stairways and other work areas clear
- Avoid carrying heavy objects that may compromise your balance
- Inspect equipment and tools for ice build-up before using
- Ensure employees are wearing the proper protective clothing
Dressing properly is extremely important in cold weather situations. The following are recommendations by OSHA for working in cold environments:
- Wear at least three layers of loose fitting clothing
- An inner layer of wool, silk or synthetic to wick moisture away from the body
- A middle layer of wool or synthetic to provide insulation even when wet
- An outer layer to protect from wind and rain that allows ventilation to prevent overheating
- Wear a hat/hood to keep the whole body warmer (Hats/hoods reduce the amount of heat that escapes when the head is exposed)
- Use a knit mask to cover the face and mouth (if needed)
- Wear insulated and/or waterproof boots or other footwear to protect the feet (Use non-slip/skid-proof if needed)
- Use insulated gloves to protect the hands (use water resistant if necessary)
- Keep a change of dry clothing available in case work clothes become too wet
- Drink plenty of liquids to help avoid dehydration
- Work in pairs or use a buddy system to watch for signs of cold stress
- Consume warm, high calorie food such as pasta to maintain energy reserves
Educating your employees on the signs for cold stress and other symptoms of cold weather related conditions. Some of the most common injuries/illnesses related to cold weather are hypothermia, frostbite and trench foot. Some of the most common symptoms or signs to watch for are shivering, slurred speech, disorientation, and inability to walk or stand. Educating your employees on how to handle these situations is vital.
If you need more information or training materials on winter weather tips, work with your Ohio Managed Care Organization (MCO).